Their Starrcade 1999 main event could have been the turning point in the war between WCW and WWE and had the chance to put Ted Tuner’s company back on the top of the wrestling world.
However, what could have been an incredible moment turned into one of the worst. The former former WCW Tag Team Champions faced off in a match that would force Bret Hart into retirement and begin a grudge that he would hold for decades following.
Goldberg’s kick to Bret Hart ended up costing millions of dollars, ending a career and almost killing Hart. It could be the most costly mistake in WCW history and one of the most devastating moves in wrestling history.
Even as recently as weeks ago, Bret Hart still holds a grudge against Goldberg and it may be something he never gets over.
Here is that story.
Goldberg Kicked Bret Hart In The Head, Causing A Concussion
At Starrcade 1999, the main event of the show was Bret Hart vs Goldberg.
The former was the WCW Champion and one of the biggest stars in the world, although he had lost a ton of momentum given the way the company botched his debut in the company in 1997.
Meanwhile, Goldberg had come out of nowhere to become the most popular man in WCW. Their only true “homegrown” talent, his popularity grew after a series of squash matches extended his legendary undefeated streak.
His peak in wrestling came when he defeated Hulk Hogan in front of 40,000 fans on WCW Nitro, but his next biggest test would be against The Best There Is, The Best There Was And The Best There Ever Will Be.
Midway through the bout, The Hitman hit the ropes as usual to launch an attack onto his opponent. As planned, Goldberg kicked Bret Hart with a mule kick, sending him crashing to the floor.
However, the kick was a little too real and Goldberg launched his foot square into the head of Hart, knocking him unconscious briefly.
The match continued for some time but it was clear that the kick affected Hart greatly. He later revealed that he remembered nothing of the match after the blow to the head, making it even more remarkable that he managed to finish the match with the great performance that he did.
In the match, Goldberg has been described as being “incredibly stiff”. In wrestling context, the word “stiff” is used to describe when a wrestler is hitting the other for real.
Sometimes it’s appreciated to be stiff (but safe), to make the match seem more realistic. However, this has to be agreed upon by both men in the match, and as a general rule to “stiff” someone in a match is not a good thing to do.
Goldberg was stiff in the match due to his lack of reps in the ring. His first match had only taken place 2 years prior and he was as “green” (inexperienced) as one could be, being in the main event of the promotions biggest show.
Putting him in the ring with an expert like Hart would do some way to mitigate the limited number of matches under his belt, however it’s clear to see it was not enough.
After 12 minutes and 30 seconds, Bret Hart would defeat Bill Goldberg. This was incredibly controversial, as many matches in WCW were at the time.
In a tired rehash of the Montreal Screwjob two years prior, Roddy Piper ran out to declare Hart the winner, even though Goldberg did not tap out to the Sharpshooter.
Many thought that this was Bret Hart’s last match, however he continued to wrestle after his career-ending concussion and hampered his health to the point where he suffered a stroke and nearly died.
The Aftermath, Hart’s Final WCW Matches
Despite suffering a massive concussion during the match, Bret Hart continued to wrestle for WCW in increasingly intense and dangerous matches.
Bret Hart wrestled Goldberg the next night on WCW Nitro for the vacant WCW Championship. This was due to the controversial ending to Starrcade, where the championship victory was tainted by the latest attempt to recreate the Montreal Screwjob.
Bret Hart would win the title (again) on Nitro, with the help of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.
With their help, he reformed the NWO and became the top heel in the company, something nobody had expected considering the way he left the WWF just two years prior.
He would wrestle eight matches after his concussion. As noted, he wrestled the next day, giving himself zero time to heal and doing untold damage to his brain.
WCW should not have let The Hitman wrestle on the show at all, so it was a big failure on their part to let him inside the ring with the state of his health.
These included matches against Chris Benoit, Ric Flair and even a hardcore match against Terry Funk. In that latter match, he took many weapons straight to his skull, something that is horrific to go back and watch based on what happened to him due to his health.
Bret Hart’s last match in WCW came against Kevin Nash in a match on WCW Monday Nitro for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
Bret Hart was still the reigning WCW Championship nearly a month after his concussion against Goldberg, and that fact makes every bump in this match hard to watch.
He even takes a brutal chair shot the skull, thanks to an interference from Sid Vicious. It’s horrific to watch and even ended in typical WCW fashion, as the match was ended a no-contest.
Three days later on Thunder, he vacated the championship once again and went on an extended hiatus, which would eventually end on him retiring from the ring altogether.
He Suffered A Stroke After His Brain Injury
Bret Hart was forced to retire due to the brain trauma that started with him being kicked by Bill Goldberg. He exacerbated the issue by continuing to wrestle, with the matches against Terry Funk and Kevin Nash two particularly uncomfortable ones to rewatch.
He officially retired in December 2000, nearly a year after his final match in WCW. The company stopped paying out his contract with him out of action, losing him a good chunk of money.
He had three years left on his deal, with Hart claiming that that kick to the head ultimately cost him $10 million he would have made, had he been able to continue wrestling.
However, two years after leaving professional wrestling, Bret Hart nearly died. It was reported by the The Calgary Herald that Bret Hart hit a pothole while riding his motorcycle which sent him flying onto the rode.
He banged his head hard on the road and suffered a stroke due to the trauma. This was made worse due to the previous damage he had done to his brain during his time in WCW.
He almost died from the stroke and struggled to speak about it for a long time. Luckily however, The Excellence of Execution managed to pull through and recover with minimal long term effects.
Bret Hart spoke about his stroke and the effects it had on him during a Facebook Q&A, revealing just how much it meant to him to wrestle Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania XXVI and that the stroke left him “struggling to turn my hand over, unable to walk or stand, and struggling to talk”
Walking down the aisle at Wrestlemania 26 in Phoenix. Today marks 20 years since I suffered a stroke. I chose this photo because there was a time when I didn’t think this moment would ever happen again, especially when I was struggling to turn my hand over, unable to walk or stand, and struggling to talk. When you suffer a stroke, the doctors never promise that you’ll have a full recovery.
I still have some weakness on my left side to this day, but I’m very fortunate to be here today having recovered what I did. I will forever be grateful to the doctors and therapists at the Foothills Hospital here in Calgary and my fans around the world for their prayers. While the match itself will never be in anyone’s top 10, this moment represents one of my greatest victories.
The fact he managed to wrestle at all, even at such a low level as it was in his 2010 return, is almost a miracle.
The early 2000s were not good for Bret Hart, considering he was forced to retire, suffered a stroke and lost his brother Owen Hart (who fell to his death inside a WWE ring at Over the Edge 1999), so it makes sense why his comeback match was such a huge deal for the former WWE Champion.
Goldberg Is Sick Of Apologising To A Still Bitter Bret Hart
Bill Goldberg admits he made a huge mistake in his kick on Bret Hart. It was a lapse of judgement from an experienced wrestler who never meant to hurt anyone, but unfortunately his lack of experience shone through that day.
It took only a split second for him to donkey kick Hart in the head, which would eventually end his wrestling career and nearly killing him.
Speaking to The Law in 2016, Goldberg revealed he apologized profusely to Bret Hart and that it was the biggest mistake in his entire life – huge words from a man clearly fraught with regret.
“That will forever go down in history as the biggest mistake that I have ever made in my entire life. For those who haven’t heard me say it, I apologize profusely.”
“God knows I put Bret Hart up on a pedestal where very few sit. The last thing that I ever wished upon him was harm, especially by my own hand.
“Every time I think about Bret Hart,” Goldberg confessed, “I feel remorseful about the kick. Though Bret and I are very good friends, and he doesn’t hold it against me, ’til the day I die, I’m gonna feel bad about it. And there’s nothing I can do to take it back.”
However, while he claimed then that Hart did not hold the kick against him, that has changed in recent years.
He has continued to demonise his former opponent in interviews over the years, showing how bitter he is toward the former WCW Champion. Once thing he laments most is that the kick cost him millions of dollars from his WCW contract and even more now that the WWE are bringing back legends for one last match at the Saudi Arabia shows.
He gets particular upset that Goldberg is trotted out at the shows every year for millions of dollars and yet he never once thought to include Hart in that payday.
Speaking in a new interview with Lucha Libre Online, Hart said;
“I think, for me, it’s always been a bit of a sore spot; it always makes me kind of mad that some guy is flying all the way over to Saudi Arabia and making 3 million dollars in a match and the same guy is the guy that kicked me in the head and never thought about me or what he cost me and my family and what he did to me,”
While speaking to Chris Jericho on Talk is Jericho, Goldberg revealed that he is “done” saying sorry to The Hitman and that he has moved on, not continuing to tear himself down over a mistake he feels remorse for over two decades following the event.
“Well, yeah, but I get it. I mean, I understand, you know, to a point, but yeah 100% I mean, Bret Hart is still up here, man. I mean, he’s an idol to anybody and everybody who would have ever been in this business. You know, I’m a human being like everybody else, man. And there was absolutely no malicious intent whatsoever. None, zero.
So does it bother me? Yeah, I’ll take it to my grave. But you know, also, also, I gotta say, man, and I’ve kind of got it at a turning point. I’m done saying I’m sorry, I’ve said it a million times. And I’m not going to continue to tear myself down. I’m done. I said I’m sorry. If you can’t accept my apology. I’m really, you know, it is what it is. You got to move on and I moved on. So I won’t be breached in this subject too much more.”
The animosity between the two was clearly one way – Goldberg has clearly apologised for ending his incredible career, but Bret Hart refuses to accept the apology.
It’s said to see one of the all-time greats be so bitter even after all these years. He did lose a lot of money from having his career ended, but surely enough time has gone on that he can now bury the hatchet once and for all, like he did with Vince McMahon & Shawn Michaels years after the Montreal Screwjob.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.